What He Didn't Know Before,
after Ada Limón
I'll tell you this secret about men: we crave,
desperately, to be seen. When we step off the train, we hope
you notice the heft of our footsteps, the weight we believe
we carry. We want you to see our neck slope into our shoulders
and imagine our back upright & strong. Have you ever
told a man he was beautiful? I'll tell you now
that man has never forgotten you, never forgotten where,
never forgotten the feeling below his throat
as that creole crossed the threshold into language.
He had no idea what to say, how to smile, which foot to shift
his weight to, whether to broaden his chest,
pull you into his arms, or wait for more
of this delicious new grammar to fill your mouth.
He had never been so disarmed. All his life,
he thought he knew his role: to see, to say, to offer.
Then you came along, and suddenly, this uprooting.
And the moment after that, when his body felt unworn—
when he would have believed anything you said,
when he would have accepted anything you offered.
Note: the term "creole" (line 9) is used in its linguistic sense—"a language that developed from the mixing of two or more languages, and was acquired as a native language by subsequent generations." Just like language itself, this definition exists on a continuum, dependent on how you distinguish it from other forms of language contact; the boundaries are always debatable.
Andrew P. Dillon graduated in the University of Tennessee's inaugural MFA class. His work is forthcoming or has appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review, Sinew: 10 years of Poetry in the Brew (2011–2021), Please See Me, Second Chance Lit, Analog, Stirring, and Connotation Press. He lives in Nashville, where he is completing his first collection. Visit his website at andrewdillonpoetry.com.